This week I'm identifying unsuspecting players who I believe could emerge as the "fantasy stud" for the week. Each player/defense will be owned in less than a third of all leagues. I settled on 33% primarily because I'm working under the assumption that most people don't have the luxury of plucking Jonathan Stewart off the waiver wire at this point of the season.
Jason Campbell (vs. Giants) I won't spend a great deal of time on him. His Week 15 opponent, the New York Giants, is much better than it appears and should be someone to consider for fantasy owners with non-elite QB options. After a great start to the season, the Giants have become a sieve against the pass, allowing the third-most fantasy points/game to QBs over the last three and five weeks. Over the last two weeks, Campbell has turned Devin Thomas into a late-season fantasy option and Fred Davis into a somewhat reliable TE play with scores in three straight games. Defenses still must respect Santana Moss and new starting RB Quinton Ganther showed last week he is a capable receiver as well. So while the black-and-blue reputation of the Giants (and the NFC East in general) may scare off some owners, it should be noted that only Washington has the defense that each of its division rivals envy. Thus, feel free to trust Campbell this week if you felt comfortable with him last week, as I did.
Chad Henne (@ Titans) I'd much rather recommend a Titans' QB here, but Vince Young's hamstring injury makes the thought of playing him or Kerry Collins dicey at best this week. Therefore, I am forced to turn to the other sideline and give a slight nod to the fast-improving second-year Dolphins signal-caller. While Tennessee ranks as the third-most favorable defense for opposing fantasy QBs this season, it has been the sixth-best unit over the last five weeks. While I admit it would take a pretty desperate owner to put Henne in your lineup this week, I certainly would play him over the likes of players such as Josh Freeman or Brady Quinn (perhaps in two-QB leagues) just because of the matchup. Here's why: what the Dolphins lack in terms of quality WRs, they make up for in quantity. Over the last month, Davone Bess has started to emerge as a quasi-WR1 for the team, but in recent weeks, Henne has come to trust Brian Hartline and Greg Camarillo as well. Because Ricky Williams should have a difficult time with Tennessee's eighth-ranked rush defense, Henne will probably be responsible for Miami’s ability touchdowns this week the few times the Dolphins get into scoring position. I don't anticipate much more than 210 yards and a score, but again, he should provide a usable fantasy point total if you find yourself in a truly desperate spot at the QB position.
Arian Foster (@ Rams) You have to hand it to HC Gary Kubiak. When he decides to make a change at RB, he seems to give that back a chance against a team in which he should be able to succeed. What do I mean? When Steve Slaton lost his fifth fumble of the season in Week 8, Kubiak turned to Ryan Moats against Buffalo's league-worst rushing defense (at the time) and he promptly went off for 151 total yards and three scores. With any luck, Part 2 of this drama may be coming just in time for desperate fantasy owners as the coach is "fixing to pick it up big-time for Foster" with a contest on deck against the 28th-ranked rush defense of the Rams in Week 15. With Slaton on IR, Chris Brown had been named the de facto starter, but that seemed like a place-filler move for Kubiak, and after three carries in Week 14, that appears to be the case. Of course, as luck would have it, Moats apparently picked up on a bit of his predecessor’s ball-handling issues (fumbling for the second time in three games of which he has played and contributed to the box score). On a team that has shuffled through its backs like Houston has this season, nothing is set in stone and certainly Kubiak isn't the most committed coach when it comes to sticking with the run or a particular RB for that matter, so he's certainly a gamble at this point of the season. However, the matchup is so juicy and Foster's pedigree is good enough - especially for an undrafted free agent - that I would be willing to roll with him over several established starting NFL RBs this week.
Kevin Faulk (@ Bills) If there is a Rodney Dangerfield (someone who gets no respect, for the younger crowd) among likely free agent RBs available each year, it has be Faulk. PPR leaguers already know Faulk is a great end-of-the-roster filler, but he has always been a RB that has gotten the most out of his limited touches. We all know the drill with Patriots RBs (and last week's 38 carries by New England RBs was definitely a one-time deal), but if there has been one constant over the years with the Pats’ runners, it has been Faulk. His chances of putting a huge number in your fantasy box score are extremely remote from week-to-week, but at this point of the season, fantasy owners are quite often searching for a RB who won't hang them with a bagel (right Chris Brown?) or near bagel (are you listening, Jerome Harrison?); this from supposed starters on players' real teams. (For what it's worth, I don't hold Brown or Harrison near as accountable for last week's sorry performances as I do their coaches, but I digress.) The Bills and their fifth-ranked pass defense are next on the schedule for the Patriots and given the state of New England passing game right now - more specifically, the fact that Bill Belichick revealed that Tom Brady was a true game-time decision last week - it may be wise for the AFC East leaders to take the same run-heavy approach they did last week vs. the Panthers' sixth-ranked pass defense. In that scenario, Faulk could push 12-15 touches, which is more than enough for him to put up 75-90 total yards.
Good luck, gentlemen.